Your Sept. 28 editorial, “Let’s Get Creative,” reminds us of the importance of the creative economy to commerce in Vermont, and I value your thoughts on this. However, in listing towns making “significant investments toward integrating arts and culture into their economic base,” you have overlooked a lively town in your own Rutland County: Brandon has been on the forefront of the arts for the last 20 years or more. We get it.
Brandon knows if you want a creative economy, you need an active cultural scene. Brandon knows commerce demands creativity and that’s what the arts provide. Brandon knows the arts invigorate the economy and make it robust — make it grow. Brandon has shown we can do it without a college, a ski run, a theme park and a shopping mall.
The following lists some of the happenings and venues that bring people from all over Vermont, New England, New York, Canada and elsewhere to Brandon:
— Year-round theater at Brandon Town Hall, including Silent Film series.
— Vermont and out-of-state musicians at Brandon Music every week.
— Art exhibits, street art and artist demonstrations at the Brandon Artists Guild.
— Chamber of Commerce Summer Concert Series, weekly.
— Ongoing visual arts and music programs at the Compass Music and Arts Center.
— Brandon Museum at the Stephen A. Douglas Birthplace.
— Brandon Harvest Festival every autumn.
— Ongoing programs for children and adults at Brandon Free Public Library.
— Annual Brandon Bluegrass Festival.
Lest you forget, the creative-economy forerunner Brandon Artists Guild currently celebrates 20 years of successful community art projects, having raised over $200,000 to benefit local school art programs and community arts projects, most recently our “Quilt Trail.” The BAG now looks better than ever — infused with vitality by a handful of strong new member artists this year.
Yes, it’s been rough getting through town lately with the $30 million Segment 6 renovation project on Route 7. But look at us now. None of our businesses have left us during this period and we have added new shops: Vermont Folk Art Gallery, Red Clover Ale brewery; still coming, the Bristol Distillery and more in the works.
During the reconstruction period, we have found creative ways to help downtown businesses: Sales of 200 orange hard-hats with a $50-prize winner drawn each month. Orange “animal” signage on the edges of town, made from construction cones. Commemorative brick sales for our new park pavements. An ongoing merchant punch card promotion netting winners over $2,000 — this single promotion totaling close to $20,000 for shoppers.
Opera has come to Brandon. Following up on six fabulous Barn Opera productions at Brandon Music, we have just purchased a wonderful barn to renovate for our new Barn Opera Company that will debut in the spring (artistic director Josh Collier). How exciting is that?
We are looking beautiful now downtown: no more overhead wires, new creative lighting, granite curbing, unusual landscaping. More: a new gazebo, new expanded sidewalks, a new summer music venue behind the Brandon Inn. Important but unseen: replaced sewer and water systems underground.
The arts bring people into town. They shop, eat, partake of all the aspects of the town and perhaps, they want to move here. This is happening already in Brandon, with very few houses for sale. When real estate becomes active, it feeds the economy.
We’re Brandon Proud. Come check it out. Visit us today.
Warren Kimble is a Brandonite.